Why I Don’t Have a Minute For the Man on the Street
On a recent trip to Seattle, I was amazed to find the downtown littered with fresh-faced young people holding binders and asking passerby for a minute to talk about one social issue or other.
These, of course, are street fundraisers – paid by charities to raise money. I’ve seen the occasional one in other cities, but never this many at once.
I can’t believe this is still happening. I’m not upset that people are being paid to fundraise – it’s an essential part of the social sector, somebody’s got to do it, and they deserve to be compensated.
What’s upsetting is the way it’s being done. No for-profit promotions professional worth their salt still thinks waylaying random people on the street is a good way to gain market share. It’s clumsy, it’s wasteful, it’s disrespectful of the people being targeted, and worst of all, it doesn’t work anymore.
It’s interruption marketing at its worst. It belongs in the same category as telemarketers who call at dinnertime and door-to-door solicitors who use cheap tricks to delay doors being slammed in their faces. Tactics like these belong to a bygone era. Charities might as well drop flyers onto cities from planes, for all the good it’ll do them.
In fact, the flyer drop approach might actually be cheaper than paying several people to loiter around downtown Seattle for hours every day annoying citizens and tourists.
I thought these outdated approaches were on their way out. I was dismayed to see one of them alive and kicking in a major U.S. city.
It makes me angry to see charities wasting their fundraising money like this. Good causes deserve better. There are new ways of doing it: subtler, more respectful, less annoying, more targeted, and (most importantly) more effective. It’s time for charities to enter the 21st century of promotions and knock off this 30 year old nonsense.